Few things in life are more peaceful than paddling a canoe across a beautiful high-country lake, and that dream can be realized at Marble’s own Beaver Lake, situated on the eastern edge of the town.
The 20-acre lake, which is maintained and stocked with trout by the Division of Wildlife (DOW), is a canoeing gem. No motorized watercraft are allowed on the lake, and it’s easy to spend a couple of hours paddling across the lake and back, fishing from the canoe, or just floating and relaxing. Several locals and some of the lodges keep canoes and other means of water conveyance locked up at the northwest corner of the lake by the Beaver Lake sign where there is a large parking lot and a public outhouse.
The Lake’s two namesake lodges, Beaver Lake Lodge and Beaver Lake Retreat, make canoes available to their guests and will rent to non-guests, even though you may have to wheel the canoe 100 yards or so from those lodges to the lake. On the busiest day of summer you might encounter a small flotilla of other watercraft, but generally it will be just you and your canoe gliding across the lake amidst mountain peaks at all points of the compass. The absolute best hours of the day for canoeing are the first three and last three hours of daylight, when the surface is usually windlessly calm and the light is best for snapshots of you and snow-capped peaks reflected in the surface of the lake.
Fishing in Beaver Lake is generally good for rainbows and cutthroats because the lake is stocked periodically over the summer and sometimes with mature brooders from the hatchery after they have served their term for spawning purposes. I’ve seen some “25-inchers” pulled out of Beaver Lake by kids on their first fishing trip. Fishing licenses are required for anyone over the age of 15 and are best obtained before you head into Marble. There are license outlets at pretty much any convenience store or grocery store in Carbondale, Redstone, or Paonia, and you can purchase a license on line at the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
For the canoeist looking for a little more adventure, Lizard Lake is tucked between the base of the towering southwest-facing cliffs of Sheep Mountain and the “backside” of Hat Mountain with great views of the east face of Whitehouse Mountain. Lizard Lake, which is accessed via the jeep road to Crystal (see 4x4 Routes), is a reputedly bottomless 5-acre lake supervised by the Forest Service. Its name is mistakenly derived from the fact that it is inhabited by lizard-like salamanders with external feather-like gills that can be observed floating above clumps of aquatic vegetation or hugging the mud bottom. The jeep road skirts the west shore where land fishermen frequently try their luck, but with only intermittent success. Lizard Lake is rarely stocked and though there might be some native cutthroats, wild brook trout, or the occasional stocked rainbow, the fishing isn’t that great.
I have tented in Lizard Lake’s two best and well-trodden campsites under towering mature evergreens, at water’s edge on the northeast and south shores of the lake, paddling all our equipment from the jeep-road shore in canoes. But a canoe here is more of a prop for postcard-scenery photos with you and yours and canoe in the foreground than a real canoe excursion. Even though the lake is too small for covering any distance by canoe, it is really more about lolling around looking up at the scenery or down into the water trying to spot a “lizard” then back to the campsite for campfire and vittles in a setting that those who later see your pictures will barely believe.
When enjoying Marble’s lakes, even if the visitor before you has not complied, the rule of decency is to “leave no trace” of your having been there. A spot as beautiful as this is even more degraded than ordinary places by any sort of manmade trash, including cigarette butts and discarded fishing line. It is not too difficult to remember that if you or someone else packed it in you should pack it out. Canoeists are also reminded that life jackets are required when canoeing on Beaver Lake or Lizard Lake, and that sudden winds can whip up in the afternoon, making it tricky to paddle back across. Keep an eye on weather conditions, wear sunscreen, and wear your life jackets.
Please note that river canoeing is not recommended on the Crystal River unless canoeists are very experienced and very familiar with whitewater conditions. The Crystal River near Marble is at times very rocky and dangerous, with whitewater conditions that can easily swamp a canoe, particularly during spring runoff from May through June. Later in the summer, the river is particularly rocky and is not recommended for canoe travel.